If each citizen also had a chance to contribute democracy dollars, their donations would overwhelm the sums that corporations are likely to spend under the recent Supreme Court decision.The Supreme Court opinion did not free corporations to make more contributions to candidates. It recognized a constitutional right to speak for themselves. Ackerman and Wu's solution is designed to increase the flow of money to candidates, which would presumably boost the candidates' power to speak and counter this newly increased speech by corporations.
Under our initiative, candidates will find new rewards by appealing to mainstream interests. If they effectively express the concerns of ordinary people, citizens could respond by sending millions of democracy dollars in their direction. Despite the new financial power granted to corporations, Americans would gain a renewed sense that they could make a difference in politics.
Ackerman and Wu are right that their solution — unlike attempts to rein in corporate speech — doesn't threaten free speech rights, but it's probably not true — as they claim — that it "allows ordinary Americans to compete effectively with corporations." It creates a huge flow of money to politicians so that the politicians can compete with corporations.
So Ackerman and Wu have a "more speech" solution — the classic preferred solution under First Amendment theory — but the "more speech" is going to come from the candidates. The speakers that will be yammering in our ears night and day will be corporate entities and politicians, not ordinary people, though Ackerman and Wu would like us to assume that the candidates that get the money will be those that "effectively express the concerns of ordinary people." So it's kind of like speech, except that somebody else is speaking for you.
Good idea? They're already doing it in "Oregon and other states." I'd like to hear more about how the state-level experiment has fared. Do the incumbents snap up the money and make it even harder for newcomers to get started?
Ackerman and Wu also put forward a new idea: setting up an electronic system that immediately refunds the amount you contribute onto your credit card. That way you wouldn't need to wait until you file your income tax return to get the money back. Ah! How the cash could flow! Just push buttons on line. Is that too easy? Do you worry about corruption? Does it unduly favor the kind of people who use computers and credit cards... or is that really everybody now?